Student Directing Festival shines bright

by Forest Lanciloti, Sofia Telio & Theo Younkin, Features Reporters
photo contributed by Polina Kontorovich & Mia Lahav

Every winter during South Stage’s Student Directing Festival, student directors are given the opportunity to direct a play of their choice. This year, seniors Willa Foster, Audrey Jung and Naomi Metcalf have assumed the directing roles as the production has finally returned to its typical structure after being disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The two one-act plays, “Circle Mirror Transformation” and “Horse Girls,” ran from Feb. 9-11.

“We choose two plays typically when we have a student directing festival, but in the past few years, we’ve only had one student director interested, so we [have] had student-written, student-directed full-length plays,”  Jeff Knoedler, acting teacher and fine and performing arts interim department chair, said. “This year is back to when we had one-act plays student-directed, but written by published playwrights.”

Foster, co-director ofCircle Mirror Transformation” along with Jung, said she was excited to get the chance to direct a production for the first time.

“It was an opportunity that is just not really available many other times in your life,” she said. “I just wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to try something new.”

After being selected to direct, the directors chose their one-act plays. Metcalf directed “Horse Girls,” a dark comedy starring a group of horse-loving middle schoolers who are devastated when they find out that their stables are being sold. She said she landed on this show after struggling to find a script that resonated with her.

“I was looking through a million [shows] and none of them were really speaking to me, and then [a director] described this one that was hyper girly, super dramatic …  and a comedy,” she said. “I have a lot of experience with comedy and building from my own girly experiences in my comedy. That’s the play I can direct.”

Jung co-directedCircle Mirror Transformation,” which takes place in a six-week acting class and tackles the characters’ internal struggles through harmless drama games. She said that she and Foster picked the play because of its ability to connect with the audience. 

“[Willa and I] wanted to go a more serious and ‘real’ way, as opposed to all the other shows that South Stage has been doing in recent years,” she said. “We thought that it was a really good way to connect with the audience in a way that’s not this big adventure, but actually something that we would see in real life.”

Working with Foster and Jung has been a bonding experience for sophomore and cast member Asher Navisky said. He said that it has been especially fun to be directed by Foster and Jung, who are only two years his senior and are some of his close friends.

“What’s great is that the student directors who I’ve gotten to work with this year and last year have been friends of mine,” he said. “They’re super knowledgeable and so fun to work with, so in the end we’re all just friends making a show together.”

Freshman Mia Dalzell who acted in “Horse Girls” said that student directors created a connected cast community in the production.

“We’re a lot closer as a cast, even with the directors, because some of them are our age, so it’s a little easier to be friendlier with them,” she said. “They still get stuff done, but it’s a much less strict environment than with an adult.”

Metcalf said she loves watching her actors develop and make her ideas come alive.

“Seeing the girls grow, I get so proud,” she said. “I love this play, and I had so many ideas starting it. My favorite thing about student directing is seeing that come to life, and being able to celebrate what the actors are doing.”